Streetwise Professor

July 26, 2014

Is Girkin in a Pickle? Or Is Putin?

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:40 pm

The Daily Beast (what a moronic name, but whatever) ran an article yesterday quoting the commander in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Igor Girkin, whinging about the impending doom of his forces, and the lack of support from Putin. (And no, I will not indulge his vanity by referring to him by his self-chosen nom de guerre.)

Maybe. But coming as it did barely a week after the destruction of MH17 by Girkin’s forces, I can think of another explanation. By seemingly attacking Putin, Girkin is actually helping him.

Putin has been striving mightily to maintain the fiction that the forces in Donetsk and Luhansk are not under his control. That they are an indigenous movement battling against the fascist regime in Kiev.

The need to do this has only increased in the aftermath of the shoot down of the Malaysian jetliner, and the murder of 298 individuals. Now the connection between Russia and the rebels is even more threatening to Putin.

What better way to do this than have the head of the rebels complain about a lack of Russian support?

So maybe Girkin’s complaints are genuine. But it is all to convenient for Putin for him to claim that he has been abandoned by the Russian president, precisely at the time when connections with the rebels are a threat to Putin. Yes, that could cause problems for Putin with the nationalists in Russia, but he likely figures that he can control internal dissenters. The international dynamic is more threatening. The Girkin complaint therefore on balance works for Putin.

Note that this is occurring at a time when if anything, Russian support for the insurgents in the Donbas is increasing, with the US claiming that Russia is shelling Ukraine from Russian territory, and arranging to dispatch even more powerful multiple rocket launch systems over the border.

So take anything that Girkin says with a huge dose of skepticism. Paradoxically, Putin is better able to provide more support to the rebels, the more plausibly he can disclaim that he is supporting them. Girkin is providing Putin the cover he needs.

We are dealing with KGB/FSB and GRU spooks here: Putin, obviously, and Girkin is allegedly a long-time FSB operative. Deception and misdirection are their most tried and true methods. You cannot take anything they say at face value. Public pronouncements are constructed to achieve a strategic or tactical objective. Right now, Putin needs to blur the connection with the Russian combatants in Ukraine. And lo and behold, Girkin delivers. It is Putin that is in the pickle, and Girkin is doing his best to get him out.

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  1. You are probably right, but now just a footnote to events. I am stunned that Australia is sending troops to attempt to secure the crash site.

    Btw, Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel on journalism, Scoop, is the source of The Daily Beast name. It might grow on you.

    Comment by S Roche — July 26, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

  2. There are some indications that Hamas is now directly supplied with the same newest Russian weapons that the Russian mercenaries in Donbas receive. In response to which Israel has allegedly strongly increased its military assistance to Ukraine. Given Israel’s huge experience in this sort of warfare, Girkin should go from being in a pickle to being pickled and canned rather sooner.

    Comment by Ivan — July 27, 2014 @ 1:51 am

  3. S Roche –

    Just a few hours ago, I tracked a Netherlands Air Force plane flying west from eastern Ukraine.

    The Dutch had sent personnel to secure the remains, etc., of victims of MH17 – only to be confronted by renewed fighting in the widespread area of the crash site.

    Tracking the flight was very easy –

    There are virtually no airplanes showing up over Ukraine.

    There are some showing up over Russia.

    Europe is crowded, when you look at the overall view.

    Comment by elmer — July 27, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

  4. I like to refer to Igor by a portmanteau of his given name and his nom de guerre-Girkov.

    Comment by Blackshoe — July 27, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

  5. @Blackshoe-Presumably with the “G” pronounced as in “gerund” or “Gerald” rather than as in “golf.” Very funny.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 27, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

  6. Sure it could be cover, or it could be Girkin got the message from his control that playing up the Super-Putin to the far right in Moscow was going to be bad for his long term health (there can only be one Fuhrer, the immortal and all powerful), or Girkin bought into his own press about being a Russian Imperial Superman and prior to Poroshenko ending his unilateral ceasefire the events on the ground seemed to be holding sway. The Ukrainian Army was still trying to figure out which units were loyal and was unwilling to use heavy weapons in their arsenal. Then Girkin’s forces idiotically continued their attacks while Putin poured more gasoline on the fire by letting the separatists have those used T-62s, and presto, Ukrainian Army finds its will to fight and are besieging both Luhansk and Donetsk and the little green men who were so tough against a bunch of corrupt and inept police guys in May are nowhere to be found. And with ever Russia video of Chechens with Allah Akbar on their berets celebrating shooting down another Ukrainian jet the less the local populace buys into the idea that ‘Russians’ are defending them.

    Comment by d — July 27, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

  7. excerpt on effect of sanctions:

    Calm Before the Storm
    By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph 26/7/14
    Jul 26, 2014 – 7:07:54

    Russia is battening down the hatches. The central bank was forced to raise interest rates this morning to 8pc to defend the rouble and stem capital flight, $75bn so far this year and clearly picking up again.

    The strange calm on the Russian markets is starting to break as investors mull the awful possibility that Europe will impose sanctions after all, shutting Russian banks out of global finance.

    Yields on 10-year rouble bonds jumped to 9.15pc, the highest since the emerging market “taper tantrum” last year. The cost of insuring against a Russian default through CDS contracts surged by 17 points to 225. The MICEX index of equities fell to a three-month low.

    Lars Christensen from Danske Bank said the inflexion point will come if the EU does in fact impose “Tier III” measures aimed at crippling the Russian banking system, as now seems likely. “That is when the lights will turn off for the Russian market. We will see face capital flight of a whole different nature,” he said.

    This moment of reckoning is suddenly drawing closer. The EU’s 28 ambassadors met for a second day this morning to grapple with draconian proposals put forward by the European Commission.

    They appear to have reached broad agreement. A cell at the Commission will draw up the legal acts over the weekend.

    There will be haggling over compensation for those on the front line when the package goes to foreign ministers for final ratification early next week. The sanctions may yet unravel. But the message from diplomats this morning was that even Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Hungary seem to be acquiescing, however reluctantly.

    There is no longer a rift between Britain and Germany. The two powers are working in tandem, backed by the Dutch, Swedes, Danes, Poles and Baltic states. The French are not as dovish as might have been inferred from the debacle over Mistral warships sale to Russia, seen in Paris as a painful embarrassment.

    Comment by elmer — July 28, 2014 @ 8:03 am

  8. Girkin isn’t in a pickle, he IS a pickle:

    Comment by Gordon — July 28, 2014 @ 10:37 am

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